« October 2014 | Main | December 2014 »

November 30, 2014

Will Arlington County Board Try to Squeeze The Turnip?

We growled on November 15, 2014, after learning the average residential real estate tax bill could increase between $330 and $440 at current tax rates. Consequently, we were distressed when we saw the most recent report of per capita personal income from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

A November 2014 report from George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis (CRA) provides updated BEA numbers for per capita personal income in  the 15 largest employment metropolitan areas for the years 2012-2013. According to the CRA report:

"In the Washington Metro Area (WMA)1, per capita personal income2 (PCPI) was $61,507 in 2013. Of the 15 largest3 metros, the WMA had the third highest PCPI and dropped one from its second place rank in 2012. The PCPI in the WMA decreased more sharply between 2012 and 2013 than did the PCPI in Boston, which now has the second highest PCPI.

"Between 2012 and 2013, PCPI in the WMA decreased 0.6 percent before accounting for inflation and placed 369th in terms of growth rate of all 381 metro areas. After accounting for inflation4, the PCPI in the WMA decreased 2.1 percent.

"Of the largest metro areas, only San Francisco-Oakland had a higher PCPI than in 2012 after adjusting for national inflation, but the increase was small, at 0.1 percent (Figure 2). All other metro areas declined by less than a percentage point, or by less than half the decline of the WMA.

"The WMA fared better than the other large metros during the Recession and had a comparatively moderate decline in PCPI . . . The region had a sharper decline between 2012 and 2013, bringing the PCPI to its lowest level since 2005."

Arlington County had the highest per capita personal income in the Washington metropolitan area (WMA), reaching $82,700 in 2013. Figure 3 in the CRA report provides the per capita personal incomes for the jurisdictions within the WMA. CRA provides the following breakdown:

"Within our region, Arlington County had the highest PCPI ($82,736), followed by Alexandria City ($81,078) and the District of Columbia ($75,329) (Figure 3). Between 2007 and 2013, the PCPI for the region as a whole decreased 3.5 percent. But within the region, five available jurisdictions had a higher PCPI than in 2007: Rappahannock (+8.0 percent or +$3,631), Loudoun (+6.0 percent or +$3,400), D.C. (4.4 percent or +$3,164), Calvert (2.0 percent or +$1,012) and Culpeper (+0.3 percent or +$126).

"However between 2012 and 2013, the PCPI in all available jurisdictions in the WMA decreased (Figure 4). The largest decrease was in Loudoun (-3.2 percent) and the mildest decline was in Rappahannock (- 0.4 percent)."

The per capita personal income for Arlington County decreased 2.43% from 2012 while Alexandria's decreased 2.32%, Fairfax County's decreased 2.06%, and the District of Columbia's decreased 2.25%.

So, while the personal income of Arlington County residents decreased in the most recent period, and is still lower than it was in 2007, the Arlington County Board is expecting to jack-up the real estate tax burdens of Arlington County residents. Will County Board members learn the truth in the proverb that says, "You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip?" (HT ThinkExist.com)

If you are an Arlington County taxpayer reading this Growls, and you are concerned the average residential real estate tax bill is likely to increase between $330 and $440 in 2015, you are urged to write or call the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And if they ask, tell them ACTA sent you!

November 29, 2014

Twice a Porker of the Month. Good Grief!

"Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers."

Talk about some people never learning? In a press release last week, we learn, "Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) its November Porker of the Month for his second unsuccessful attempt to convince his fellow Republican lawmakers that it would be a good idea to restore earmarks.  During a closed-door meeting on November 14, 2014, by a vote of 145-67, House Republicans rebuffed Rep. Roger’s effort to earmark projects for “state, locality, public utility or other public entities.”  Rep. Rogers was also named CAGW’s Porker of the Month in April 2012, after his first failed attempt to end the earmark ban on March 30, 2012."

Here's how CAGW justified naming Rep. Rogers it's November 2014 Porker of the Month:

"Rep. Rogers made his pitch even though House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had already made it crystal clear that the earmark moratorium would continue under his leadership.

"Rep. Rogers justified his persistent campaign to lift the ban by claiming that it transfers too much power over spending decisions to the executive branch.  Rep. Rogers stated “I do not believe most people trust how President Obama spends our tax dollars. … This proposal would allow a conservative, Republican-controlled House to reassert its Constitutional authority over the Obama Administration and the spending decisions it is currently making.”  In 2012, during a similar Republican conference meeting, Rep. Rogers reportedly complained that Congress couldn’t get anything done without earmarks and urged his Republican colleagues to lift the ban.

"Rep. Rogers is wrong on both counts.  Congress can change any law at any time and pass spending bills that reflect members’ priorities.  Earmarks never accounted for more than one percent of federal spending; the other 99 percent is spent by agencies according to the statutory authority provided by Congress.

"Taxpayers are indeed fed up with the wasteful spending in Washington, but earmarks do not lead to a reduction in spending; they simply allow pork-addicted members of Congress to grease the skids for even bigger, more wasteful legislative vehicles.  Indeed, spending has dropped since the end of the earmark ban due to sequestration; the failure to enact legislation is due to a recalcitrant Senate led by soon-to-be Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"Rep. Rogers and his 66 earmark-loving colleagues apparently have forgotten that earmarking led to congressional corruption, including the incarceration of members (mostly Republicans), staff, and lobbyists who used the process to buy votes.   In fact, the earmark moratorium itself has not completely worked as advertised and has led to even less transparency.  While the total number of earmarks has dramatically decreased even under CAGW’s long-standing criteria, there were 109 earmarks totaling $2.7 billion that still managed to weasel their way into the fiscal year FY 2014 appropriations bills.  Only a few individual members could be directly linked to the funding requests.  The vast majority of the earmarked funds included fewer details than those prior to the moratorium.

“Speaker Boehner’s effort to block the return of congressional earmarking is much appreciated by taxpayers.  Indeed, the vote to restore earmarks could sadly have been a lot closer without his leadership.  Rep. Rogers’ belief that earmarks are essential in order to keep the gears of Congress turning is nonsensical and dangerous at best,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz.  “A return to earmarking would again entice members to vote-trade, hold back-room deals, and increase wasteful spending.  Instead of trying to bring back earmarks, Rep. Rogers and the other 66 Republicans who followed his lead should devote their time and energy to restoring regular order to the budget process and cut the bloat that continues to plague government spending.  Voters awarded Republicans control of the Senate and a larger majority in the House in order to do just that:  A return to the bad old days of earmarks would be a repudiation of that mid-term election message.”

"For attempting to reinstate earmarks instead of focusing on fiscal restraint, CAGW names Rep. Mike Rogers (and gives his 66 misguided colleagues honorable mention) its November Porker of the Month."

Kudos to Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) for their continuing efforts to eliminate waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Click here to learn more about those efforts.

If you believe Representative Mike Rogers' (R-Alabama) efforts  to restore earmarks are a bad idea, you can contact his office on Capitol Hill by calling (202) 225-3261.

November 28, 2014

A Thought on Governing and Prioritzation

“To govern is to choose. To appear to be unable to choose is to appear to be unable to govern.”

~ Nigel Lawson (served as Margaret Thatcher's Chancellor of the Exchequer)

Source: Editorial, Washington Examiner, October 20, 2014, "Detroit's lesson for the CDC and big government,"

November 19, 2014

Arlington Spending Too Much? Depends on Who You Ask

Your humble scribe El Growler Grande will be out of town for approximately a week during which growling may be light or non-existent. Hopefully, growling will resume before the end of the month.

A month ago, on October 15, we growled about how Arlington County spending (on a per capita basis) compared with it's Northern Virginia neighbors. In that Growls, we wrote:

"If you believe, as we do, that a top priority of the Arlington County Board should be to spend tax dollars in an efficient and economical manner, the Board should use the numbers from the VAPA's comparative report as a base to look at the efficiency and economy of each and every county operation or program. We understand there are factors that may justify increased spending, e.g., the county's higher daytime population. Likewise, the county's population density may result in a higher per capita spending for parks and recreation."

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey picked-up on that Growls, and asks, "Arlington government spending too much? As always, it’s a matter of opinion," in a story this morning. To balance his story, McCaffrey interviewed Arlington County Board chairman Jay Fisette.

One of the key points your humble scribe has been trying to make is there needs to be greater accountability, including more proof of efficient and economic county operations. Obviously, this would include establishing a strong and vigorous internal audit department. Mr. McCaffrey incorporates comments by Jay Fisette that address several specific comparisons as well as comments about the more general question of greater accountability and transparency of county operations.

As I told Mr. McCaffrey,"“What is needed, it seems, is for the County Board to direct the county manager  to use the numbers [in the report] as a base for taking an in-depth look at each department." Here is Mr. Fisette's response:

"Fisette countered that the ultimate arbiter of government spending is the public. “The study validates that the county spending is closely aligned with our core values – Arlington has a heart, and this spending reflects our values,” he said.

“Our community can afford to help those who need it, to keep our infrastructure humming, to maintain outstanding recreational opportunities and to keep our community safe,” Fisette said.

"Wise pressed for a regional analysis of spending of local governments, along the lines of the Washington Area Boards of Education, which each year produces an apples-to-apples comparison of expenditures in suburban school districts.

"“If the Arlington Public Schools’ staff is willing to cooperate with other public-school districts in the region, Northern Virginia taxpayers should expect no less from their city and county governments,” he said. “A better question, perhaps, is why isn’t the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments already providing such a service?”

Different people are taking different messages from the November 4 elections. Although we wholeheartedly agree with yesterday's decision to cancel the Columbia Pike streetcar, there are other messages that can be drawn from that election. I think it is reasonable to conclude that a large number of Arlington voters are fed-up with wasteful and spendthrift spending.

Readers of Growls who are concerned that Arlington County Board members continue to have their pet vanity projects specifically and are not mindful of inefficient and ineffective spending in  general are urged to write or call the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And if they ask, tell them ACTA sent you!

November 18, 2014

Arlington County Scraps Streetcar Projects

The online Arlington Sun Gazette reported just after lunch today that "Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette announced today that a board majority has opted to scrap the county’s streetcar initiative," adding that it "smounts to a stunning turnaround." The story went on to say:

"The board is expected to ratify that decision at today’s 3 p.m. meeting, and the vote is likely to include both the Crystal City and Columbia Pike streetcar projects.

"Fisette and Vice Chairman Mary Hynes have opted to switch their support for the streetcar, joining John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey in opposition.

“We cannot ignore the political realities,” said Fisette, noting the Nov. 4 election results that saw independent board member Vihstadt handily defeat pro-streetcar Democrat Alan Howze.

“This was a powerful message to the board,” Fisette said at a noon press conference."

At ARLnow.com, their reporting starts with a picture of Board chairman Jay Fisette announcing "the Columbia Pike streetcar will be cancelled." The story was first reported just after noon, and updated twice -- at 2:40 P.M. and at 3:55 P.M. Here's a portion of their reporting:

“I have come to the conclusion that the only way to move forward together … is to discontinue the streetcar project,” Fisette said solemnly, before a large crowd of reporters. “After close consultation with [County Board members Mary] Hynes and [Walter] Tejada, with our partners in Fairfax and Richmond and with members of the community, Ms. Hynes and I have agreed that all spending on streetcar must end.”

"Fisette will make it official with a motion at this afternoon’s County Board meeting. Tejada is said to oppose canceling the project and may vote against Fisette’s motion.

"The streetcar project was to be funded by commercial transportation revenue, along with funding from the state and Fairfax County, which was to benefit from the Pike streetcar running to the Skyline area.

"Fisette said the county will instead explore options for improving bus service on Columbia Pike. The transitway between Crystal City and Alexandria will continue to operate and be developed, but will be served only by buses. Existing streetcar contracts — like the $26 million engineering contract awarded in September — will be “wound down” as quickly as possible."

Batting clean-up was the Washington Post's power reporter Patricia Sullivan and Antonio Olivo. who reported this evening, writing:

"Arlington County on Tuesday abruptly canceled two long-planned streetcar projects that had been hailed by smart-growth advocates as catalysts for development but stirred bitter opposition among residents newly skeptical of government projects.

"Despite solid backing from developers, leaders of neighboring Fairfax County and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), the plan to launch streetcars along Columbia Pike and in Crystal City became toxic in Arlington, where elected officials pride themselves on progressive urban planning as well as on building polite consensus.

"The streetcars figured prominently in proposals to bring new housing and retail and office space to struggling neighborhoods. They typified the county’s historic embrace of mass transit and its strategic use of transportation projects to trigger development in trendy neighborhoods, including Clarendon and Ballston.

"But a vocal contingent of Arlingtonians questioned the promised benefits of the project — whose price tag eventually reached $550 million — and wondered whether it was an example of county-funded excess.

"A streetcar makes no sense for Arlington from either a transit efficacy or an economic-development perspective,” said Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt (I), who last spring campaigned against the projects and won in a low-turnout special election, becoming the first member in 15 years who is not a Democrat."

One final point. At ARLnow, "Ivan" comments, "This is tantamount to political suicide. All those years and all those sunk costs, direct and indirect, time spent up and down the government chain that could have been focused on other issues (schools). I don't see how he survives this. Such waste." The Post's Patricia Sullivan has the answer, writing:

"Officials in Arlington and Fairfax estimated that they had spent several million dollars, and countless hours, planning the two projects.

< . . . >

"Fairfax officials strongly criticized the decision to pull the plug on the streetcar projects, which were endorsed in a number of studies and became a key part of plans to redevelop Baileys Crossroads.

“This unilateral action by the Arlington County Board destroyed 15 years of a joint effort,” said Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason). “It set back transit options in this part of the region for at least a generation or more.”

"The streetcar plan had “great support from the governor,” Gross added, and was approved multiple times by the Arlington and Fairfax boards. “And, now,” said Gross, “it’s blown to smithereens.”

"The Arlington board voted 4 to 1 to terminate all contracts and agreements related to the streetcars, withdraw funding applications and “develop alternate transportation strategies” for the areas.

"Board member J. Walter Tejada (D), who voted to keep the streetcars, lashed out against opponents for “rancor and knee-jerk responses” and said the cancellation would limit plans for much-needed affordable housing in Arlington. The county had planned to require developers who wanted to build along the streetcar lines to provide low- or moderate-income housing in addition to market-rate projects."

An online survey accompanied the Washington Post story, asking "Did you agree with the decision to halt the Columbia Pike streetcar project?" As of midnight, 4,599 readers responded to the Post's story. There were 2,318 readers (51.77%) who answer, "Yes. The streetcar was a bad idea" while 2,218 readers (48.23%) answered "No. I supported the streetcar.

The Arlington County press release is here.

We thank all those readers of Growls who used our response facility to e-mail or call the Arlington County Board. Thank you!

Finally, Peter Rousselot and the volunteers of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit are due a great round of applause for organizing the anti-streetcar efforts in Arlington County. Arlington County taxpayers owe Peter many kudos.

November 17, 2014

Are Household Income + Federal Taxes Distributed Fairly?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their report, "The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2011" on Wednesday last week. The report shows the shares of before-tax income and federal taxes by before-tax incomes groups. (.pdf version of report; and blog version with links to supplemental and related documents)

The CBO provides this very short explanation of the report:

"In 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) estimates, average household market income— a comprehensive income measure that consists of labor income, business income, capital income (including capital gains), and retirement income—was approxi- mately $81,000. Government transfers, which include benefits from programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance, averaged approximately $13,000 per household. The sum of those two amounts, which equals before-tax income, was about $94,000, on average. Federal taxes as examined in this report comprise four separate sources: individual income taxes, payroll (or social insurance) taxes, corporate income taxes, and excise taxes. Taken together, those taxes were about $17,000 per household, on average, in 2011. Thus, average household income after taxes was about $77,000, and the average federal tax rate (federal taxes divided by before-tax income) was 17.6 percent."

The following is Table 1 from the 35-page report, which is filled with tables and charts. It is the most comprehensive of the tables:

At the Tax Foundation's Tax Policy Blog today, Kyle Pomerleau provides a brief description and  lists the most important features of the report:

". . . This report measures both average household income and average federal tax burden by income quintile in 2011.

"There are many important parts to this report, but the main feature of this report is its estimation of the distribution of household income and federal taxes. The CBO finds:

  • The median household in the United States earned $66,400 in pre-tax income plus government transfers. However, the distribution of income is skewed to the top.
  • Households at every income level benefits from government transfers (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), but low income households rely on them the most.
  • Conversely, low income individuals pay the lowest average effective federal tax rate (1.9 percent of household income). The top quintile paid the highest (23.4 percent).
  • Although taxes are progressive at the federal level, certain taxes are more progressive than others.
  • The corporate income tax is born by all households, not just the highest income households

The inimitable John Merline argues at Investor's Business Daily (IBD) last week that the "new CBO report explodes tax fairness myths," writing:

"President Obama has constantly complained about the rich not paying their "fair share." But a new Congressional Budget Office report shows that the rich were paying more than their fair share of taxes before the numerous hikes he imposed.

"The CBO looks at the distribution of household income and federal taxes up through 2011, the last year for which it has data. It found, for example, that:

"While the top 1% of households accounted for 15% of all income, they paid 35% of all federal income taxes. The bottom 20% accounted for 5.3% of income, but they got more in refundable tax credits, on average, than they paid in income taxes.

"Even when you include payroll and other federal taxes, the bottom 20% carried just 0.6% of the total tax burden."

A few paragraphs later, Merline goes further into exploding those tax fairness myths, saying:

"Despite all the hullabaloo about how Bush's tax cuts favored the rich, the share of income taxes paid by the top 1% climbed from 22% in Bush's first year in office to 25% by 2008. The share paid by the bottom group dropped from 1.4% to 0.4%.

"Yet somehow, mainstream news outlets like the Washington Post manage to report with a straight face that, thanks to Obama's tax hikes, "the very richest Americans are finally shelling out a bit more in federal taxes."

The country is also extremely generous when it comes to writing checks to lower income families. So much so, in fact, that the bottom 40% of households — 48.6 million of them — now get more than half their income in the form of transfer payments, the CBO report shows.

"Oddly, when it comes to fairness, Obama and his fellow Democrats are completely silent on the fact that the rich actually collect hundreds of billions in federal transfer payments each year, and not just from Social Security and Medicare.

"According to data tables accompanying the CBO report, the wealthiest 20% of households received a total of $284 billion — with a "b" — in transfer payments in 2011. The average family in this group collected $6,050 from Social Security, or $500 more than poorest 20% of households received.

"They also got $3,000 in Medicare benefits — almost the exact same amount as the poorest households."

Merline concludes saying:

"Yet despite their being caricatured as pawns of the rich, it has been Republicans who've pushed to limit or cut off access to these benefit programs to wealthy Americans — particularly Social Security and Medicare — while Democrats defend such payments on the grounds that "means testing" would undermine political support for them.

"Apparently fairness is also in the eyes of the beholder."

The Washington Post story, which Merline cites, appears to be here.

Reason Foundation's Nick Gillespie has some interesting observations about one of the Left's favorite topics -- income inequality -- and economic mobility, writing on Friday, November 14, 2014:

"Between 1979 and 2011, the Gini Index, a measure of income inequality, increased whether talking about pre-tax or post-tax income. In terms of straight "market income" (a measure of all income from all non-transfer sources), it increased from below 0.5 to 0.59. Based on before-tax income, it went from 0.4 to 0.47. And for after-tax income, it went from around 0.36 to 0.44.

"CBO notes that federal tax and transfer policy reduced the increase in after-tax inequality by 26 percent from what it would have been otherwise, with the majority coming from transfers, not taxes. That's despite the aggressive—if often unacknowledged—progressivity of the U.S. tax system, which is far more progressive than systems of other developed countries. As Veronique de Rugy has pointed out in Reason and elsewhere, European countries typically charge more of their residents more taxes at all levels, especially in the form of value-added taxes (on the flip side, those countries typically give more straight transfers to citizens too). The U.S. system, argues de Rugy, hides many of its costs because "it disproportionately relies on the top earners to raise revenue, it exempts a large class of taxpayers from paying any income taxes, and it conceals spending in the form of tax breaks." A more transparent system might have lower marginal rates but fewer if any exemptions.

"So, does increased income inequality reduce economic mobility? Intelligence Squared recently hosted a debate on the issue, featuring the Manhattan Institute's Scott Winship, whose work is often cited here. The entire debate is worth a listen but Winship's main point is that income mobility—the ability for an individual or particular household—to move up or down the income ladder is unrelated to whether the rungs of the ladder are being more widely spread out. Winship is a critic of mobility rates—he thinks they are too low—but he persuasively documents that those rates haven't changed over the past 30-plus years even as income inequality has increased."

Gillespie writes that you can "read some of (Winship's) reasons" in this essay at the Manhattan Institute's e21 website.

Also last week, former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm and budget advisor Michael Solon take on the "now-famous study by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez" about income inequality, and show how "the Piketty-Saez data ignore changes in tax law and fail to count noncash compensation and Social Security benefits." Unfortunately, their November 12, 2014 op-ed is behind the Wall Street Journal's paywall.

Readers of Growls who consider that a flat tax or the FairTax are far preferable to the concurrent system are urged to  contact their members of Congress. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And, tell them ACTA sent you.

November 16, 2014

More Waste, Fraud and Abuse of Your Federal Tax Dollars

The next time you're browsing the Internet, stop by the Washington Examiner news site, and click-on the Watchdog icon at the top of the page. Below are just a few of the ledes from stories being reported this evening:

"A Tennessee home healthcare company was forced to pay $25 million to settle its second fraud case in two years.

"CareAll, a collection of home nursing and rehabilitation companies, defrauded both Medicare and Medicaid by billing inflated and falsified costs to the federal programs for home healthcare services, the Department of Justice said.

"From 2006 to 2013, CareAll exaggerated the severity of patient illnesses to pad its billings and sought reimbursements for medically unnecessary services that were administered to patients who weren’t even homebound, according to the Justice Department.

"But this wasn’t the home healthcare group’s first encounter with the court."

"Federal tax officials may have paid more than $168 million in improper fuel tax credits because the IRS failed to catch questionable claims on Form 1040 returns, according to a government watchdog.

"The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said its auditors reviewed a sample database consisting of more than 1.2 million tax returns for the three years ending in 2013.

"Approximately $168 million (24 percent) of the $694 million in fuel tax credit claims for the three years were questionable based on the fact that the individuals reported no farming or other business income to support their claims," TIGTA said in a report made public Thursday.

"The questionable claims weren't caught in many cases, IRS officials told TIGTA's auditors, because the federal tax agency's computers weren't properly programmed."

"Federal auditors rarely show emotion in their official reports, but that didn't prevent a government watchdog from leaving no doubt about what happened to $1.25 million awarded to Childhelp, a troubled Phoenix-based foundation.

"We found that ChildHelp did not comply with essential grant conditions in every area we tested," said the Department of Justice Inspector General in a report made public Thursday.

"That meant more than 83 percent of the funds Childhelp received through six separate federal grants in 2010 were spent without complying with Justice Department guidelines."

"A federal program designed to help women-owned small businesses compete for government contracts often hands awards to ineligible companies, according to the Government Accountability Office.

"What’s more, the Small Business Administration program is falling short of its goal of increasing opportunities for women who own small businesses, GAO said in a new report.

"An SBA review in 2012 and 2013 discovered more than 40 percent of companies that had previously received contracts through the program were ineligible to be designated as women-owned or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses."

"A damning audit report provides the latest evidence of IRS mismanagement of the flood of sensitive documents and data it gets from taxpayers despite having a $1.8 billion information technology budget.

"The federal tax agency doesn’t effectively keep track of the software it purchases, it buys more copies than needed and it sometimes deploys more copies than it is allowed, the report said.

“The IRS does not effectively manage server software licenses and is not adhering to federal requirements and industry best practices,” according to a new audit report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

“TIGTA estimates that the amount wasted because of the inadequate management of server software licenses is in the range of $81 million to $114 million based on amounts spent for licenses and annual license maintenance that were not being used,” the report said."

Those are just a small sample of the reporting that is posted at one newspaper's website in just a few days of November.

Some might ask why I seem to growl so frequently about stories unrelated to Arlington County. First of all, I only growl once a day. Consequently there is so much to growl about. We do cover Arlington County stories, e.g., growling about such topics as the Columbia Pike streetcar, the $80 million swimming pool, aka the aquatics center, and the $1 million SuperStop bus stop, among many others. One thing I strive for is a variety of topics, but also interesting topics.

Last Friday, there was a story on page 2 of the Washington Post where David Fahrenrhold reported that "Congress votes to kill some government reports." He talked about the work of Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), and said it was a "small victory for efficiency in government." The House voted 382-0 to kill 48 of 4,291 reports identified by the Post in a May 3, 2014 story. Since the Senate passed an identical bill in September, President Obama will likely soon sign the legislation into law. The media frequently reports that Americans want the two political parties to "work together in governing America." Well, if it's so difficult to eliminate 48 useless reports, one has to wonder how Congress will pass such major legislation as so-called immigration reform, or even more important legislation as a balanced budget.

Readers of Growls who wish to thank Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) for continuing to work on eliminating useless reports, or want to comment on government waste, fraud, and abuse are urged to contact their members of Congress. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And, tell them ACTA sent you.

November 15, 2014

Average Arlington Tax Bill Could Increase $330-$440 per Year

The Arlington County Board and School Board held a joint budget planning session on Friday morning, November 7, 2014. According to the PowerPoint (PPT) presentation posted at the Department of Management & Finance’s website, the Boards were told the “economic outlook has stabilized since last fall’s Federal government shutdown” with a“solid residential real estate market.” However, staff has “continued concerns in office sector.”

That concern about the office sector was demonstrated in an accompanying chart of the countywide commercial vacancy rate, which showed the rate has essentially doubled from just under 10.0% in 2011’s first quarter to a current rate of just over 20.0%.

The two Boards were told that while revenue projections are positive, they are projected to be less than the projection of expenses. Here are the details from the PPT slides:

“Overall real estate growth: 3%
  • Single Family: +7% to 8%
  • Condominiums: +5%
  • Apartments: 0% to +2%
  • Offices: flat to declining 
  • General Commercial up & Hotels down

“Continued residential growth with flat commercial shifts more of the burden to the homeowner

  •  “Average tax bill would increase between $330 and $440 per year (at current tax rates)

“Other Taxes up 3%

“Fees, interest, & other revenues up 1%

“State and Federal revenues remain flat – monitoring budget developments at the State level for impacts on the County”

Two slides contained graphs showing vacancy rates in key commercial areas. For example:

  • Rosslyn increased from “20% to 28% in the past year while Crystal City’s hovers “around 24%.”
  • Rosslyn increased from “20% to 28% in the past year while Crystal City’s hovers “around 24%.”

The county expenditures slide shows that merit pay and/or step increases are expected to increase employee compensation by $4.9 million while healthcare will increase 10% or $3.9 million. Retirement costs are expected to decrease by $600,000 due to an actuarial study while other post-employment benefits will increase $400,000. Metro will increase by $1.2 million, or 4%. Finally, costs for “new facilities” will increase $2.3 million  for the full-year funding of the new homeless shelter and costs associated with DHS’ Sequoia move.

According to the staff’s PPT slides, the county is facing a funding gap “in the single digits” but they note the Schools have “enrollment challenges and facility needs” while there are “increased demands on county programs and services.” Staff does display their sense of humor, however. On the slide (#10) forecasting the funding gap,” staff found a graphic showing that expenses outweigh revenues.

If you have a few minutes, take a look at slides 11-20, which have several charts with program data such as annual transit ridership.

Information from the County Board’s recessed meeting on Tuesday, November 18, may affect the above numbers. Agenda item #31 is the FY 2014 closeout and re-appropriation while agenda item #32 is the FY 2016 financial forecast and budget guidance for FY 2016. We'll likely post another Growls about agenda items 31 and 32 are heard by the Arlington County Board on Tuesday.

Readers of Growls who are concerned that the average residential Arlington County real estate tax bill is likely to increase as much as $440 per year are urged to write or call the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And if they ask, tell them ACTA sent you!

UPDATE (12/5/14): Here's a link to the press release published by the county, including news of Board's budget guidance for FY 2016.

November 14, 2014

ObamaCare, Gruberisms & the Deception of 'Stupid' Americans

Shortly after 3:00 P.M. today, CNN's Jake Tapper reported that the sixth of a series of videos of "ObamaCare architect" Jonathan Gruber had been located. In this one, Tapper says that according to Gruber, "'Mislabeling' helped us get rid of tax breaks." Here's Tapper's introduction:

"In a 2011 conversation about the Affordable Care Act, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the law more commonly known as Obamacare, talked about how the bill would get rid of all tax credits for employer-based health insurance through "mislabeling" what the tax is and who it would hit.

"In recent days, the past comments of Gruber -- who in a 2010 speech noted that he "helped write the federal bill" and "was a paid consultant to the Obama administration to help develop the technical details as well" -- have been given renewed attention.

"In previously posted but only recently noticed speeches, Gruber discusses how those pushing the bill took part in an "exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter," taking advantage of voters' "stupidity" to create a law that would ultimately be good for them.

"The issue at hand in this sixth video is known as the "Cadillac tax," which was represented as a tax on employers' expensive health insurance plans. While employers do not currently have to pay taxes on health insurance plans they provide employees, starting in 2018, companies that provide health insurance that costs more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family will have to pay a 40 percent tax.

"Economists have called for 40 years to get rid of the regressive, inefficient and expensive tax subsidy provided for employer provider health insurance," Gruber said at the Pioneer Institute for public policy research in Boston. The subsidy is "terrible policy," Gruber said.

"It turns out politically it's really hard to get rid of," Gruber said. "And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it's a tax on people who hold those insurance plans."

The remainder of Tapper's report is here. If you're wondering where all the tapes are coming from, Tapper explains:

"Many of the videos were discovered by a Philadelphia-area financial adviser named Rich Weinstein who has spent the last year researching Obamacare after his family insurance premiums doubled. Weinstein told CNN that he had assumed, incorrectly, that since he liked his health insurance plan and he had insurance, he wouldn't be much impacted by the new law."

The American Thinker blog has more about Weinstein and another private citizen "doing the job investigative reporters won't do.

Also today, Fox News' Kelley Beaucar Vlahos reports that "(d)espite Dem claims, trash-talking Gruber was well-paid adviser for ObamaCare and more." Here's how Vlahos starts his reporting:

"During the heyday of the ObamaCare push, Jonathan Gruber was whiz-kid-in-chief. His number-crunching on the benefits of the plan was frequently cited by Democrats trying to sell the proposal to the public.

"Now, Washington Democrats have a new message: He’s not with us.

"After a string of videos have emerged showing Gruber gloating about how the law’s authors exploited Americans’ “stupidity,” the White House has distanced itself. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi even claimed: “I don’t know who he is. He didn’t help write our bill.”

"But while Jonathan Gruber might not have been a familiar name until this week for many, Pelosi and the rest of the lawmakers who pushed the law certainly knew who he was in 2009 and 2010.

"A look at the record shows he was in fact paid to advise the Department of Health and Human Services. And he continues to play a role in health policy elsewhere, even as his unearthed videos cause headaches for the administration, just ahead of this weekend’s Round 2 enrollment launch.

"Gruber, an MIT professor and economist, has lived amid the health care debate in Washington for at least 20 years.

"Gruber was retained by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2009 on a $297,600 contract to provide “technical assistance in evaluating options for national healthcare reform.” Gruber also confirmed to The Washington Post that he was paid another $95,000 before that, for a total of nearly $400,000."

The remainder of Vlahos' reporting is here.

Late this afternoon, Shushannah Walshe of ABC News provides additional background and explains "how little-known MIT professor Jonathan Gruber shook up Washington this week," including this:

"Before Obamacare, he also advised the creation of a similar law in Massachusetts, sometimes called Romneycare, after Mitt Romney, who was governor of the Bay State at the time. Despite some resistance to the term “architect,” Gruber joined the president’s transition team in 2008 and no one disputes he played a key role in the law’s creation. The Washington Post reports he was also paid "almost $400,000" for the work, controversial in its own right.

"Gruber has made controversial comments in the past, but they don’t compare to the comments that came to light this week, six videos in total and counting – including one where he refers to the “stupidity of the American voter.” In another, when talking about Obamacare tax credits, he said, “American voters are too stupid to understand the difference.”

Meanwhile, this morning at National Review Online, David French posted a "Dear Democrats" letter, advising them, "don't even think about running from Jonathan Gruber."  His lede:

"Ian Tuttle has a nice piece up over on the homepage about the Democrats’ many efforts to distance themselves from Jonathan “stupidity of the American voter” Gruber. He used to be known as the “architect” of Obamacare and now, according to CBS News, the Democrats are trying to “turn Gruber into a stranger.”

"Not so fast.

"In a 2010 piece, the Daily Kos outlined Gruber’s deep ties to the White House and to HHS, providing even links to his HHS contracts and the stated justifications for his contracts. The language from the presolicitation notice is particularly interesting . . . ." (links deleted)

And at Reason at noon today, Peter Suderman further explains how Gruber "embraced misleading public," adding:

"Remember, this is what Gruber was saying as the law was still being debated. It didn’t pass in the House, the critical step before hitting President Obama’s desk, until more than a week later. And what Gruber was saying, even before the bill was law, was that supporters had intentionally emphasized parts of the bill that were relatively minor, and that were not certain to even produce their intended effects.

"This is not lying, exactly; the bill did in fact include some attempts at cost control, although as Gruber said, it was unclear at the time if or how well they would work. And Gruber may well have been right that the public was more concerned with cost control than expanding coverage. But, especially in combination with the other video released this week, it indicates that Gruber believed that the law’s advocates were not being completely straight with the public, that supporters of Obamacare were telling the public what they believed the public wanted to hear instead of giving them the full story, and that they were doing so on the understanding that telling the full story would make the bill impossible to pass.

"What it shows, in other words, is Gruber openly embracing a strategy of messaging manipulation and misleading emphasis even while the bill was still being debated. If the public understood the bill clearly, he believed, they would reject it. It was more important to pass the bill."

Even the far left MSNBC posted a story about the Gruber video(s) yesterday evening. The lede from Benjy Sarlin's report:

"Congress returned this week to a looming immigration shutdown, a new climate change deal, and leadership elections in both parties, but recently unearthed remarks by Jonathan Gruber, a prominent architect of the Affordable Care Act, may have generated the most buzz.

"The comments, dug up by an amateur researcher, came from a conference a year ago in which Gruber said that the bill was “written a tortured way to make sure the [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes.” The “mandate” is the law’s controversial requirement that everyone must carry health insurance or otherwise face a fine.

"The real kicker, though, was what Gruber seemed to say next: that the Obama administration had relied on “the stupidity of the American voter” to push the law through."

Not to be outdone, the New York Times' Neil Irwin tries to downgrade the "Gruber controversy" as just "Washington's dirty little secret." In the commentary section of the Washington Times yesterday, James Bovard uses "(t)he ObamaCare deception of 'stupid' Americans" to explain "(h)ow the liberal elites rely on lies to pass their paternalistic agenda." Gateway Pundit also had a post this afternoon in which he tallies up the $4 million made by Jonathan Gruber from healthcare consulting.

Readers of Growls who are concerned about the intended and/or unintended consequences of ObamaCare are urged to contact their members of Congress. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And, tell them ACTA sent you.

November 13, 2014

Arlington Public Schools Still Region's Most Expensive

The new Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide is out for Fiscal Year 2015, and it shows the Arlington Public Schools (APS) are the most expensive in the Washington, D.C. region, and the difference between APS and the next most expensive ((Falls Church) is over $1,800.

The new WABE Guide was posted at the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) website on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, but is not yet available at the APS website. The WABE Guide includes school districts in Northern Virginia and the nearby Maryland school districts. The WABE Guide is an important source for comparing the cost per student of the participating school districts. As the footnote on page 31 of this year's Guide says:

"Uniform formulas were developed by the WABE committee for consistency area-wide. These numbers are comparable; however, the cost per pupil reported here may differ from that reported in individual districts' budget documents or other reports."

Consequently, the Guide provides the ability to make "apple-to-apple" comparisons. Here are the cost per student numbers for the 10 WABE school districts:

         School Division                   FY 2015 Approved     Percent Change

  • Arlexandria                            $17,041                  0.95%
  • Arlington                                $19,040                 1.94%
  • Fairfax County                        $13,519                0.35%
  • Falls Church                           $17,109                0.69%
  • Loudoun                                  $12,195                  4.79%
  • Manassas City                        $12,613                  5.25%
  • Manassas Park                      $10,836                  6.52%
  • Montgomery County              $15,351                  0.16%
  • Prince George's County         $12,902                11.58%
  • Prince William County           $10,365                2.04%

Over the next several weeks, we'll growl about other comparisons contained in the WABE Guide, e.g., comparisons of enrollment data, teacher pay, sources of revenue, and authorized positions.

If one listens carefully to the education press or the teachers' unions, one is encouraged to think that more spending "for the children" increases student performance. Let's test that out. Consider that according to the WABE numbers for FY 2015, the Arlington County Public Schools will spend $5,521 more than the Fairfax County Public Schools. Multiply that difference by the 23,421 APS students, and the number crunching means the Arlington School Board has an "extra" $129 million to spend on improving the educational performance of Arlington students. Unfortunately, the total SAT scores for the two school districts are essentially the same -- 1653 for APS and 1668 for FCPS. But what about other factors, one could ask. There are some differences, but the differences don't seem significant. For example, ESL students (APS has 17.4% while FCPS has 17.0%); free and reduced price lunches, often seen as a proxy for poverty (APS has 31.8% vs. 27.5% for FCPS); and special education students (APS has 14.7% vs. 13.8% for FCPS). Finally, we growled on May 11, 2012 about the consulting firm, hired by the Commonwealth, that estimated the cost of Arlington's lower student-teacher ratios at about $30 million. Well, it sure seems the accounting of APS costs needs to be much more transparent.

Readers of Growls who are concerned about the cost of the Arlington Public Schools are urged to write or call the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-6000

And if they ask, tell them ACTA sent you!

November 12, 2014

Soaking Virginians via Corporate Tax Deals

An investigative report posted today at the Watchdog.org website by Virginia Bureau chief Kenric Ward discusses tax incentives used to induce business to move to Virginia. Here's the first half of Ward's reporting:

"Tax incentives for selected businesses are driving Virginia deeper into debt and House Speaker Bill Howell says he’s committed to curbing the special breaks.

"Virginia needs a tax code that encourages growth, and that means making it simpler and more transparent,” Howell told Watchdog.org. “We can eliminate those incentives and lower the overall tax burden on Virginia’s families and businesses.”

"Despite imposing income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, car taxes, higher gas taxes and a host of other levies, Virginia faces a projected revenue shortfall of $2.4 billion over the next three years.

"State officials said $346 million more will have to be found in fiscal year 2015 and an additional $536 million will be needed in fiscal 2016.

"Millions for out-of-state billionaires (emphasis in original)

"Meanwhile, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, like his predecessors, is funneling millions in tax dollars to selected companies from an “Opportunity Fund.” The latest $5 million state spiffs went to firms based in California and China.

"After less than a year in office, McAuliffe told the Washington Post he’s run through $68 million in an effort to kick-start Virginia’s stagnating economy.

"Two dozen other corporate subsidy program, including Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grants and Green Job Creation Tax Credits, hand hundreds of millions more to businesses each year.

“Now, McAuliffe needs more money from the General Assembly,” said Tim Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association.

"Howell, R-Falmouth, takes a dim view of the idea.

“Tax incentives have a role to play, but there has to be accountability to make sure those incentives are working. That is why the General Assembly passed legislation to sunset all new tax incentives,” Howell said.

“Some incentives have probably outlived their usefulness,” the speaker added. A House-Senate subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, is examining special breaks that have piled up over the years.

Because corporate incentives tilt the playing field in favor of state-subsidized “winners,” Virginia’s tax climate has turned chillier for business overall.

The Tax Foundation rates Virginia business tax load 27th in the nation. That’s a deterioration from 23rd in 2012.

Residents shoulder heavy tax load

"Even worse, the state’s individual tax ranking came in at a dismal 39th.

"Retirees are punished by the state, which taxes their annuities, something even high-tax states like New York don’t do."

The remainder of Kenric Ward's reporting can be found here, and includes quotes from your humble scribe.

Readers of Growls who are concerned that Virginia's tax incentives are being abused are urged to contact Governor Terry McAuliffe and Senators and Delegates who represent Arlington County in the General Assembly.

  • Contact information for members of the General Assembly can be found here (use one of the "quick links").

And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 11, 2014

A Thought on Choice and Competition in Education

"We won't improve our schools until we get government out of the way.

"In education as elsewhere, the alternative to government is the private sector.

"Markets have a long history of driving innovation, raising quality and lowering costs.

"That's what American education needs — choice and competition. Rather than relying on bureaucrats to decide where students go to school, how money is spent and what's being taught, students and their parents should pick the schools."

~ W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm

Source: Their op-ed, "Income Gap isn't due to Greed but to Poor Education," posted 7/15/14 at Investor's Business Daily.

November 10, 2014

What Motivated Arlingtonians to Vote for John Vihstadt?

The Arlington County news site ARLnow.com put up a poll this morning trying to learn what motivated Arlington County voters to re-elect John Vihstadt to the Arlington County Board. Here's the text that introduced the poll:

"There are many reasons cited for Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt’s historic electoral victory last week.

"Most explanations seem to center around concern about county spending projects. Among them: the delayed and increasingly expensive streetcar system, the indefinitely delayed $80+ million Long Bridge Park aquatics center, the delayed and occasionally problematic $1.6 million Clarendon dog park, and the delayed and occasionally problematic $1 million bus stop."

ARLnow.com readers are provided with five choices although reader comments suggest a desire for more choices. Here are the choices and results as of about 11:30 P.M.

  • Streetcar -- 56.32%  (829 votes)
  • Aquatics center  9.31%  (137 votes)
  • Clarendon dog park -- 2.79%  (41 votes)
  • Million-dollar bus stop -- 5.5%  (81 votes)
  • Other  -- 26%  (384 votes)
  • Total Votes: -- 100% (1,472)

Voting is easy. Just click here. Our most recent Growls about the future of the Columbia Pike streetcar is here.

If you have the time, please take a couple of minutes and let the Arlington County Board know how you feel about the Columbia Pike Streetcar. You can write to the three Arlington County Board members who seem deaf to what Arlington County taxpayers have to say. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130

And if they ask, tell them ACTA sent you!

November 09, 2014

How to stop the street car

Find a candidate for the 2015 election with all the right civic credentials ( like John Vihstadt) and run him on a platform that simply says, "Vote for me and I will stop the street car".

During the campaign, he should answer every question ("What do you think about the County's latest recycling plans?") like this, "Vote for me and I will stop the street car".

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

November 08, 2014

Does the Columbia Pike Streetcar have a Future?

Early yesterday morning, the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey posted an analysis, suggesting that while the demise of the Columbia Pike streetcar, the $350 million vanity project of three Arlington County Board members, is "now possible, but not imminent."

Here's how McCaffrey begins his analysis:

"Do odds now favor cancellation of the Columbia Pike streetcar project? That’s the hope of critics and the fear of supporters, but the question remains an unresolved one, and may stay that way for a while.

"The re-election earlier this month of anti-streetcar County Board member John Vihstadt puts opponents of the $350 million project within striking distance of a County Board majority, if they can win at least one of the two board seats on the ballot next November – or if they can convince one or more of the pro-streetcar threesome to switch sides.

“The next several months will be important,” said Tim Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association and a frequent critic of county spending priorities. “The voters have made their opinions known, loudly and clearly. The question is whether the three members of the County Board who support the Columbia Pike streetcar will listen.”

"Wise threw out a series of questions, in largely chronological order, in evaluating where the issue goes from here:

“What will the Democratic nominating process look like next spring? Will there be a Democratic primary? Will a Democratic candidate who is opposed to the streetcar emerge from that primary? Who will emerge to oppose those Democrats? Will Democrats renominate [anti-streetcar board member] Libby Garvey [in 2016]? Will Dels. Patrick Hope or Rip Sullivan introduce a bill in the 2015 General Assembly that would enable Arlington County citizens to voice their opinions in a referendum?”

He then takes a "few stabs at answers," which you can read here.

McCaffrey includes the chart below, which amounts to a project timeline for Arlington County voters.

Fairfax County supervisors also seem nervous, according to a story, which Brian Trompeter posted  today at the Sun Gazette. His lede:

"The chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors says she is wary that the Arlington political situation could postpone, or derail, the Columbia Pike streetcar project.

“It would be a shame if the project were delayed or stopped,” Sharon Bulova (D) told the Sun Gazette.

"While the Columbia Pike streetcar project has support from many Fairfax County officials, it remains on thin political ice in Arlington County, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said.

:Like Arlington’s County Board, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is divided over building the streetcar. But unlike Arlington, the issue has not become a political hot-potato in Fairfax."

That said, Trompeter also wrote, "Time is money,” (Fairfax County Board chairman) said. “If the project is to be, it is important that it move forward expeditiously so it’s as cost-effective as possible.” However, Trompeter said  that "Fairfax County officials will not dip their toes into Arlington to influence voters there"

Meanwhile, in a story posted last month by the Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan we were reminded that "local legislators stand behind Arlington-Fairfax streetcar project."

Finally this Thursday, November 6, 2014, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring released an official advisory opinion on "whether Arlington County may conduct an advisory referendum regarding a proposed streetcar system." After setting out the background and applicable law and discussion, the Attorney General concluded:

" . . . it is my opinion that Arlington County does not have authority to conduct an advisory referendum regarding a proposed streetcar system."

The Post's Patricia Sullivan reports today on the AG's advisory opinion. Here's a portion of her reporting:

"Herring’s opinion was sought by Del. Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington), who raised the possibility of a public vote in the spring. The County Board rejected that suggestion in June.

< . . . >

"Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan (D-McLean) is drafting a bill, which he intends to introduce in the next legislative session, that would give Arlington the authority to hold a referendum. But passage of such a bill would not be easy, Hope said, characterizing it as “an uphill battle” and “a heavy lift.” Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) hasn’t taken a position on the bill, his staff said."

Finally, it seems that people are starting to jump the proverbial shark. At the left-wing blog Blue Virginia late this afternoon, "lowkell" asks "is Jay Fisette correct to compare Columbia Pike Streetcar opposition to climate science denial?" Some of the reasoning, however, is sound, e.g., in comparing streetcar opponents to climate science deniers, "lowkell" writes:

"Next, as a political matter, let's face it: calling someone a climate science denier is a highly unflattering thing to say, and in my view should be reserved for actual climate science deniers, who more than deserve the opprobrium for their idiocy, lunacy, etc. In the case of the Columbia Pike streetcar project, while I don't agree with the opponents on almost anything, and while I question their repeated, false statements (e.g., that Bus Rapid Transit is possible on Columbia Pike despite the absence of a dedicated lane, which it most certainly is not), I'm not sure how essentially equating them to climate science deniers is either going to win them over or prevent them from being even ANGRIER at County Board supporters like Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada."

In our Growls on Tuesday, November 4, we embedded links so that Arlington taxpayers could easily e-mail Delegates Patrick Hope and/or Rip Sullivan to urge them to introduce legislation that would allow Arlington County voters to have an opportunity to voice their opinions about the Columbia Pike streetcar. Alternatively, you can voice your concerns to the three Arlington County Board members who seem to be deaf to what Arlington County taxpayers have to say. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130
And if they ask, tell them ACTA sent you!

November 07, 2014

Why Arlington County Needs a Strong Internal Audit Function

In a report released on Tuesday, November 5, 2014, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said, "wireless device inventory control weaknesses resulted in inaccurate inventory records and unsupported service fees." (HT TaxProf Blog)

TIGTA performs internal auditing and other oversight functions for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Below is the highlights page of the report, released on September 19, 2014:

"IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS

"In Fiscal Year 2013, the IRS spent more than $13.7 million on wireless telecommunication devices and maintained an inventory of more than 49,000 devices reported as being in use. Effective controls over the assignment of and inventory accounting for these devices is important to ensure proper stewardship of Government funds.

"WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT

"TIGTA’s previous work found that IRS processes for assigning and monitoring the use of devices were not adequate to ensure that employees have a business need for the devices. In addition, prior work found that the IRS paid for thousands of devices that were unused. The overall objective of this review was to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the IRS’s inventory control for wireless aircards, cellular phones, and BlackBerry® smartphone devices.

"WHAT TIGTA FOUND

"Inventory controls over wireless devices could be improved. Federal guidance requires the IRS to assess current device inventories and usage and establish controls to ensure that the IRS is not paying for unused or underutilized devices. TIGTA found that more than 94 percent of IRS employees were appropriately assigned a BlackBerry smartphone, cellular phone, or wireless aircard device, while almost 6 percent were in positions that the IRS had not designated as eligible for the device. However, the IRS’s systems of record designed to document wireless device inventory were not consistently updated as changes occurred, which resulted in almost 57 percent of inventory records being inaccurate. For example, serial numbers, barcodes, and telephone numbers were not accurately documented in inventory records.

"Ineffective inventory controls resulted in unsupported and duplicate service fees. Specifically, according to monthly vendor billing statements, TIGTA found that the IRS paid monthly service fees for almost 6,800 wireless devices that were not captured in inventory records and for more than 700 employees who had multiple wireless devices that perform the same function. Due to weaknesses in controls, including the thousands of unaccounted for devices, the IRS risks paying service fees for devices that are not authorized, not in use, or duplicative.

"WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED

"TIGTA made several recommendations to improve IRS inventory controls. For example, TIGTA recommended that the IRS perform an inventory reconciliation to ensure that records reflect the correct status of each device. TIGTA also recommended that the IRS implement an inventory process for wireless pagers and consider conducting reconciliations of monthly billing statements to identify users with service fees for devices not in inventory.

"In their response, IRS management agreed with the recommendations and stated that they plan to take corrective actions contingent upon funding availability."

If this kind of abuse can happen at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), why would anyone think it can't happen to little ol' Arlington County, Virginia? We've growled on numerous occasions about the need for Arlington County to establish a strong and dynamic internal audit function and/or an inspector general. After the Fairfax County School Board acted to strengthen their internal audit function, we growled on October 10, 2014:

"So once again, the elected officials in Fairfax County have surpassed their elected colleagues in Arlington County. And even here in Arlington County, there remains a wide divide between the County Board and School Board. We growled on April 5, 2014 after the Arlington School Board hired an internal auditor, We also growled on August 4, 2014 when it was reported that Arlington County hired an internal auditor although "word on the street" is that he or she (the county would not even specific the person's gender) has had second thoughts on being employed by Arlington County.

"Heck, Arlington County taxpayers won't even know until January 2015 on whether there will even be an independent and dynamic watchdog. That is when the Board is scheduled to receive from the Manager "an assessment of whether the audit function should be independent and to whom it should report," according to Note 33 that accompanied the FY 2015 Adopted Budget."

We also growled on August 4, 2014, after the county reportedly hired an internal auditor although we understand the person has since refused the county's job offer.

We requested a copy of the interim report that was due October 31, according to Note 33. Adopted budget. Although the request was made on November 5, 2014, as of COB this afternoon, there was no response from the County Manager.

If Arlington County taxpayers support an independent internal audit function that will shine a strong light on how taxpayer dollars are spent, you are urged to:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130

And if they ask, tell them ACTA sent you!

November 06, 2014

Two Columns Oppose Columbia Pike Streetcar

At ARLnow.com today, two columns address the future of the Columbia Pike streetcar. In one column, Mark Kelly, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board, asks: "Is the Street Care Dead?"

Kelly begins his op-ed, writing:

"According to Inside Nova, Kip Malinosky, Chairman of the Arlington Democrats said he was going to try and “reverse engineer” Tuesday’s County Board loss. Malinosky told ARLnow, “…people are obviously unsatisfied about something… ”

“Something?” Not that I am opposed to allowing the Arlington Democrats to waste their time on a reverse engineering project, but I can make it simple for them: Tell the County Board to stop doing things a majority of voters oppose.

"John Vihstadt is the voice of the majority in Arlington when it comes to big-ticket spending items. It used to be a quiet voice, but now it has spoken. Twice. Overwhelmingly.

"By back of the envelope estimates, more than one out of every three Warner voters ignored the Democrats’ sample ballot to vote for Vihstadt. This after Democrats spun the special election result as merely being the by-product of a lower turnout.

"The Board has spun, advertised, paid for friendly studies, lectured, cajoled, and decried opposition on the streetcar. It has not worked. We are not buying it. They have lost the argument. Unfortunately for the voters, the current makeup of the Board still has the votes to move forward — at least for another year.

"And, it sounds like they have every intention of moving forward . . . ."

The remainder of Kelly's weekly column is here.

In a second column at ARLnow.com today, Peter Rousselot, former chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, says that on Tuesday, Arlington's "Voters Repudiate County Board Majority." He begins his op-ed by writing:

"In Tuesday’s County Board election, Arlington voters again rendered a decisive verdict on major priorities and practices of the current majority on the Arlington County Board (Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada).

"The verdict: change your priorities and practices, or we’ll elect others who will. (emphasis in the original)

"Independent John Vihstadt won another landslide election by again uniting tens of thousands of Arlington Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Independents into a broad-based coalition that shares Vihstadt’s policy priorities and rejects those of Fisette, Hynes and Tejada:

  • prioritize spending on Arlington’s core government services (e.g., overcrowded schools, basic infrastructure, sensible transit, and public safety),
  • end spending on wasteful and extravagant projects like streetcars, a gold-plated aquatics center, and more fancy dog parks,
  • provide far greater transparency and accountability in Arlington County government".

Rousselot spends the remainder of his weekly column providing "major takeaways" from Tuesday's election for the three Arlington County Board members who continue to support the streetcar, other Arlington Democratic elected officials, and the Arlington County Democratic Committee. His conclusion:

"It is no longer enough to get elected to the County Board that you be the Democratic nominee."

When we growled about John Vihstadt's reelection on Tuesday, we included a call for Delegates Patrick Hope and/or Delegate Rip Sullivan to introduce legislation that would allow Arlington County citizens to voice their opposition or support for the Columbia Pike streetcar in a referendum, and included links so that readers of Growls could make their opinions known to Delegates Hope and Sullivan.

November 05, 2014

All That Brouhaha Over Voter ID Was About What?

A bit of background first. According to the U.S. edition of the International Business Times today, "Thousands of voters in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia said they were unable to cast ballots in Tuesday's midterm elections amid growing efforts by Republicans to stamp out voter fraud. The complaints suggest that a slew of laws passed in recent years by GOP lawmakers and blasted by critics as a modern-day poll tax aimed at suppressing Democratic turnout may have influenced the results in some of the nation's most contested contents." This article posted yesterday by the Washington Post claims there was "confusion over a new voter ID law in Virginia."

The following is a story filed by Katie Watson, an investigative reporter with Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau on Monday, November 3, 2014, entitle, "Just a few thousand VA voters request free photo IDs before election day."

"Tuesday will mark the first general election when Virginia’s controversial photo ID law will be in full swing.

"But just about 3,000 voters have applied for a free photo ID from their local registrar so far.

"Critics of the controversial 2013 law say it suppresses older voters and minorities, who may not have photo ID, although anyone who needs photo ID can get one for free by requesting it from a local registrar. Those who show up at the polls sans photo ID can still cast a provisional ballot that will count, as long as they show proper ID by the end of the week.

"The state has estimated about 200,000 active voters out of nearly 5.3 million registered voters in the Old Dominion have no DMV identification, although other forms of ID like passports, student ID and employee ID are acceptable, too.

"As of Monday, the Department of Elections reported 2,987 Virginians have applied for a free photo ID card. The average applicant age is 67, according to Rose Mansfield, executive assistant to the commissioner’s office at the Department of Elections. Another 900 are receiving temporary IDs that are good for 30 days.

"Of course, it’s hard to say how much of that low figure is attributable to voters already possessing proper ID, voters being unaware of the requirement, or voters simply not making the effort to request the photo ID to vote.

"Mansfield told Watchdog.org “Wednesday will be the test” of how familiar Virginians are with the state’s new law. The Department of Elections, as well as candidates and nonprofit organizations and media outlets, have raised awareness of the need for photo ID.

"The city of Roanoke, Fairfax County and the city of Richmond, in that order, topped the list in the number of people who have applied for photo IDs.

The remainder of Ms. Watson's report can be found here.

Voter ID statistics are available at the Virginia Department of Elections here.

November 04, 2014

John Vihstadt Wins Reelection to Arlington County Board

The Arlington Sun Gazette's headline this evening reads, "(John) Vihstadt does it again, thumps Howze to win Arlington County Board seat." Here are the first few paragraphs from Scott McCaffrey's report:

"For the second time this year, John Vihstadt pummeled Alan Howze and, by extension, county voters took a whack at the Democratic establishment that has run Arlington for three decades.

"Vihstadt, who ran as an independent and defeated Howze in an April special election for County Board, won a full four-year term Nov. 4 with yet another, if slightly more narrow, victory.

"With all precincts in, but without absentee votes yet reported, Vihstadt had won 31,544 votes, or 56 percent, to 24,470 for Howze.

"It was not quite the 17-point margin of the April special election, but Vihstadt’s victory defied conventional wisdom that the higher turnout of a general election would help push Howze over the top.

"Vihstadt’s victory came on an otherwise good night for Arlington Democrats, who saw candidates for Congress and School Board win. (See related story on Page 25.)

"Vihstadt’s re-election now sets up what could be a significant intra-party fight among county Democrats over their 2015 candidates, and also means anti-streetcar forces within Arlington need to win just one of the two County Board seats on next year’s ballot in order to take control of the board and scuttle the Columbia Pike streetcar."

You can read Mr. McCaffrey's entire report here.

ARLnow posted news of Vihstadt's reelection win earlier this evening, albeit with the more memorable headline, "BREAKING: Vihstadt Wins HIstoric Victory." Again, the first few paragraphs from the ARLnow story:

"(Updated at 10:45 p.m.) Incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt, running as an independent, has won a historic victory in today’s general election.

"The Arlington County Board election office is reporting 31,544 votes for Vihstadt and 24,470 votes for Democratic challenger Alan Howze, with only absentee votes yet to be counted.

"All Arlington precincts reviewed by ARLnow thus far have voted for the top of the Democratic ticket, incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who is in a tight statewide race with Republican Ed Gillespie.

"Vihstadt is the first non-Democrat to win an Arlington County Board seat in a general election since Republican Mike Brunner won in 1983. (Ellen Bozman was elected to the County Board in 1985 and 1989 while running as an independent, but she was endorsed by the Democratic party and in 1993 won reelection as a Democrat.)

“We’ve made modern history in Arlington County,” Vihstadt told ARLnow.com at his election party. “In my view, this was not a victory for any one person or any one party, it was a victory for a new way of doing things, a fresh perspective and a new paradigm in Arlington County where partisanship doesn’t mean much but citizenship means everything.”

"Howze called Vihstadt to concede the race at 9:15 tonight. He said he was disappointed with the result, which came despite hard work on the campaign trail by his supporters.

“There was a message of dissatisfaction with the electorate,” Howze said. “I worked hard to bring new ideas and a new perspective to the County Board. They chose John and the alternative path he put forward. He ran a very good campaign, ultimately the voters rewarded him for that.”

Although unofficial, you can view the latest results at the Virginia Department of Elections' election night reporting here.

The voters of Arlington County, and hopefully the readers of Growls have made their opinions known, loudly and clearly. But the question is whether the three members of the Arlington County Board who support the Columbia Pike streetcar will listen to the 31,544 (56.08%) voters who checked John Vihstadt on their ballots.

It seems to me the next several months will be important to whether Arlington County taxpayers will be encumbered with a costly streetcar running along Columbia Pike rather than a streamlined, far less costly bus rapid transit (BRT). Wiil the three streetcar supporters on the Arlington County Board "rethink" whether Arlington County truly needs another Board vanity project.

What will the Democratic nominating process look like next spring? Will there be a Democratic primary? Will a Democratic candidate who is opposed to the streetcar emerge from that primary? Who will emerge to oppose those Democrats? Will Democrats re-nominate Libby Garvey? Will Delegates Patrick Hope or Rip Sullivan introduce a bill in the 2015 General Assembly that would enable Arlington County citizens to voice their opinions in a referendum?

Readers who live in Arlington County are urged to contact either Delegate Patrick Hope or newly-elected Delegate Rip Sullivan to urge them to introduce legislation that would allow Arlington County citizens to vote on a streetcar in a referendum. To e-mail them, just click below, or telephone them.

  • Delegate Patrick Hope -- e-mail him, or call (703) 486-1010
  • Delegate Rip Sullivan -- e-mail him, or call (703) 969-6296

And tell them ACTA sent you!

UPDATE (11/6/14): Scott McCaffrey reports at the Arlington Sun Gazette today on an analysis of the Tuesday's voting results of the 10 precincts along the Columbia Pike corridor. Although Howze won 44% of the vote countywide, he won 53% of the votes in those 10 precincts. Included in McCaffrey's reporting:

"Howze and Vihstadt received similar percentages in the April special election, although there were significant variations among precincts:

Glen Carlyn, Jefferson and Fillmore flipped from Howze in the spring to Vihstadt in November.

Barcroft, Arlington View and Arlington flipped from Vihstadt to Howze.

"Four precincts – Arlington Mill, Columbia, Four Mile Run and Claremont – voted for Howze in both elections."

November 03, 2014

New Fodder for Columbia Pike Streetcar Debate?

In an article posted this morning at the Arlington Sun Gazette website, Scott McCaffrey asks whether "D.C. streetcar woes add new fodder to Arlington debate?" Below are the first several paragraphs from Mr. McCaffrey's article:

"Just a bump in the road, or a portent of things to come? That is the question Arlington leaders are sure to be debating during the rollout, with inherent fits and starts, of the H Street/Benning Road streetcar in the District of Columbia."

County Board Chairman Jay Fisette used his online newsletter to constituents in late October to take a pre-emptive shot at streetcar critics. He acknowledged that the D.C. streetcar effort had some teething pains, but called them “typical issues that streetcar startups experience.”

“Modern streetcars are performing well and operating around the world,” Fisette said, “efficiently moving hundreds of thousands of passengers each day.”

It was a response that Fisette’s board colleague, Libby Garvey, couldn’t help but scoff at.

“The disastrous launch of the H Street streetcar does not reflect simply ‘the typical issues that streetcar startups experience’ – modern streetcars are not performing well and operating efficiently in the United States when mixed with traffic,” said Garvey, who prefers an upgraded bus system over the streetcar proposal for Arlington’s Columbia Pike corridor.

The 3-2 pro-streetcar majority on the County Board has approved contracts for preliminary engineering and design work on the 5-mile Columbia Pike line, but anti-streetcar forces can stop it if they grab a board majority in the 2015 elections."

You can read the entire article here. Also read the reader comments; there are two at the moment.

Readers of Growls are urged to make their views on the Columbia Pike streetcar by: 1) voting tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4, 2014; and 2) e-mailing the Arlington County Board by clicking-on the following hotlinks. Or you can call them.

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you!

November 02, 2014

Some Frightening Federal Budget Numbers

When the Congressional Budget Office released it's update to the 2014-2024 budget and economic outlook on August 27, 2014, the CBO said the budget deficit will continue to shrink in 2014, but also pointed out that federal debt is still growing. In sort, the CBO said:

"The federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2014 will amount to $506 billion, CBO estimates, roughly $170 billion lower than the shortfall recorded in 2013. At 2.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), this year's deficit will be much smaller than those of recent years (which reached almost 10 percent of GDP in 2009) and slightly below the average of federal deficits over the past 40 years. However, by CBO's estimates, federal debt held by the public will reach 74 percent of GDP at the end of this fiscal year—more than twice what it was at the end of 2007 and higher than in any year since 1950."

The CBO report includes the following table, which provides the revenue and spending/outlay numbers that result in the annual deficits:

The CBO report contains as much detail data as anyone can ask for. There are also links to additional data, slides and related publications.

This past week, Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center published a short paper of federal budget trends with several helpful charts. Ms. de Rugy writes:

"The ghosts of federal spending past are here to haunt our nation’s fiscal future. This Halloween, the most terrifying frights won’t be found in the creepy mansion on the edge of your town; they’ll be found in the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook. Ten-year federal outlays exceed projected revenues by $9 trillion and growing mandatory and entitlement obligations represent by far the biggest  items in our budget especially compared to discretionary spending ones such as veterans’ services, transportation, and national defense. The charts show that without fundamental entitlement reform, the future of federal budgeting will be spooky, indeed."

The following chart provides a summary of revenues and outlays (spending) for the 10-years from 2014 to 2024:

If you're wondering just how much more the federal government will spend than the revenues collected, it's 22.1%. That's correct! If Congress and the next several presidents do nothing to change federal spending, the federal government will spend 22.1% more than the taxes and other revenues collected.

Ms. de Rugy includes one other chart that shows the "percentage of federal revenues remaining after mandatory and interest spending" for the years 1962 through 2024, technically known as the Steuerle-Roeper Index (aka fiscal democracy index).

 

In explaining the chart above, Ms. de Rugy says it "displays this budgetary trade-off between mandatory spending along with interest payments on the debt and discretionary spending from 1962 through 2024 projections. The Steuerle-Roeper Index is calculated by subtracting mandatory and interest spending from total federal revenues and dividing the difference by total revenues. In other words, the index measures how much revenue is left to cover all other budget items once mandatory spending and interest payments have been made. A high percentage means that there are ample funds remaining for other budget items. A low percentage suggests that few federal funds remain for discretionary spending."

She sums up her comments, saying:

"As the chart shows, the Steuerle-Roeper index declines over the next decade, indicating dwindling federal funds for discretionary spending. The average measure for 2003 through 2024 is about 14 percent—about one third the average value of the index for the years 1962 through 2002 of 41.5 percent. The average measure for the next decade drops to just over ten percent. By 2024, the Steuerle-Roeper measure of 0.5 percenta level below the 2.4 percent and 2 percent the index reached in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

"If left untouched, the federal budget could one day become merely a transfer mechanism for entitlement programs and a debt machine that incurs higher and higher interest payments, so discretionary programs of the sort Americans are accustomed to will be harder to continue. While this year’s Halloween frights will soon fade, this budget problem will continue haunting our future unless we start fixing it now."

Readers of Growls who are concerned about the deficits and debt being piled-up by the federal government are urged to contact their members of Congress. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And, tell them ACTA sent you.

November 01, 2014

CAGW Announces October Porker of the Month

 


In an October 22, 2014, press release, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) "named Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) its October Porker of the Month for his erroneous and cynical claim that budget cuts are responsible for the problems with the nation’s response to Ebola.  Rep. Van Hollen told CNN that “deep” spending cuts at healthcare agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “have made it more difficult to respond in a rapid and comprehensive way to the Ebola outbreak.  They [the agencies] are doing everything they can with the resources they have now, but the cuts they’ve seen in past years, they were like eroding the foundation and it clearly meant they were starting from behind.” (emphasis added)

CAGW justified naming Maryland's Rep. Chris Van Hollen by writing:

"In fact, both agencies’ budgets have increased slightly compared to fiscal year (FY) 2006 levels.  NIH funding increased from $28.5 billion in FY 2006 to $30.1 billion in FY 2014.  The agency also got a $10.4 billion bump in FY 2009 from President Obama’s economic stimulus package.  The CDC has experienced a similar pattern, as funding levels increased from $6.3 billion in FY 2006 to $6.6 billion in FY 2014.  These totals include various supplemental appropriations plus the advent of an annual appropriation beginning in FY 2010 through the Prevention and Public Health Fund established by the Affordable Care Act.

"An October 15, 2014 Washington Post article awarded “Four Pinocchios” to the premise that Republicans alone are to blame for cuts to Ebola research.  The article pointed out that the Obama administration proposed cutting the NIH’s budget while the administration of former President George W. Bush was “responsible for significantly boosting NIH’s funding in the early years of his presidency.”

"Both agencies have directed millions of dollars on questionable taxpayer-funded studies and research initiatives in recent years.  The Washington Free Beacon uncovered more than $39 million that the NIH spent over the past four years on questionable studies such as the $3 million to study obese lesbians, $2 million on encouraging the elderly to join choirs, and $500,000 to study why larger women have problems getting dates. In 2006, the CDC spent more than $10 million on new office furniture for its lavish headquarters and $1.8 million on a “Hollywood liaison” to help movie and television studios develop accurate plot lines about diseases.

"In an October 15, 2014 interview with Watchdog.org, CAGW President Tom Schatz stated, “When members of Congress come out and say something is underfunded, we should ask them how many times they have proposed eliminating a wasteful program to redirect those funds.” A March 22, 2014 Government Accountability Office report recommended that that the NIH begin to prioritize research projects that are most crucial by determining scientific needs and opportunities, limited funded research, threat to a population, and public health need.

“It is absurd to blame budget cuts for anything related to the nation’s response to Ebola.  In the past few days, the CDC has established a stricter protocol for the care of Ebola patients.  Clearly, however one interprets the amount of money spent on the CDC and NIH, it did not cost taxpayers more than a few thousand dollars for a few bureaucrats to sit around and decide that everyone should be completely covered, work in pairs and with a trainer, and have the proper cleaning and disposal practices.  In fact, these practices should have been established before the first patient was diagnosed in the U.S.  They should have been in place when the first patient was diagnosed in Africa.  Unfortunately, for big-spending statists like Rep. Van Hollen, the answer to every single problem is always more taxpayer dollars, not better management of the money that is already being spent.  Years of misplaced spending priorities occurred within both agencies, as well as Congress.  Nothing focuses the mind and the budget or clarifies priorities faster than a crisis, real or perceived.  The problems related to the response to Ebola is a good illustration of why eradicating wasteful spending and using taxpayer dollars wisely is so important.  As the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Van Hollen should do his job and force the CDC and NIH to redirect money away from their ridiculous projects to national priorities,” concluded Schatz."

Kudos to Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) for their continuing efforts to checkmate waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers' hard-earned tax dollars.

Readers of Growls who are concerned with Rep. van Hollen's erroneous and cynical claims budget cuts were responsible for the nation's responsible to Ebola will have to call him since ZIPcode authentication procedures will likely prevent e-mails to his office. His office telephone number on Capitol Hill is (202) 225-5341. You can view his gerrymandered 8th Congressional District here.